TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran announced that it was giving 50 million dollars in aid to the cash-strapped Hamas-led Palestinian government following a suspension of funding from the United States and European Union.
“The government of the Islamic republic invites all countries to help the Palestinian government and nation, and announces the allocation of 50 million dollars to help the Palestinian government and people,” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced.
He was speaking at the end of a regime-sponsored conference in Tehran on supporting the Palestinians. Top officials used the gathering to call for Islamic nations to fill the gap in Palestinian authority finances.
“We warn that if the aid is cut and if this continues in the near future, this land will witness a humanitarian disaster,” Mottaki said.
In Gaza City, the Palestinian government thanked Tehran for the aid, saying it would help “break the blockade the Palestinian people have been placed under”.
“We appreciate the Iranian backing, in particular in these difficult conditions for our people, who are undergoing a suffocating blockade,” said Palestinian spokesman Ghazi Hamad.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who was attending the conference in Iran, has urged Muslim countries to dig deep.
He said on Saturday that the new Palestinian administration, which took office after Hamas’s landslide election win in January, has inherited not only an empty treasury, but 1.7 billion dollars in debts.
Meshaal said “170 million dollars a month is needed to run the administration, out of which 115 million dollars goes to paying salaries.”
Syria on Sunday announced it was launching a fundraising campaign for the Palestinian Authority.
Vice President Faruq al-Shara, quoted by the official SANA agency, said the state would open bank accounts into which individuals could deposit money.
EU foreign ministers last week formally backed plans for a temporary aid suspension to the Palestinian government — amid demands for Hamas to renounce violence, recognize Israel and to abide by previous Palestinian commitments.
The EU gives about 500 million euros (600 million dollars) a year to the Palestinian Authority, about half of it collectively through Brussels and the rest from individual EU governments.
The United States announced last week that it would suspend all direct aid to the Palestinian government but said it would boost humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people through the United Nations.
The United States and European Union consider Hamas a terrorist group.